Michelle’s Egyptian Adventure – Part 4 ~ Pictures
Luxor – Cairo – Athens – Poros
October 17 – 21, 2008
The last of the Egypt updates!
We arrived in Luxor in the afternoon of the 17th after a 2+ hour bus ride in our convoy. Since the sun sets at about 5:30 and we needed to see Karnak Temple before dark we had just over an hour to freshen up in our hotel . . . this meant SHOWER!!! Glorious water!!! Sarah and I opted for putting on makeup instead of grabbing food – we wanted to feel a wee bit human after two days on the felucca. Once back downstairs we met our horse drawn carriages that took us down the road to Karnak Temple.
Karnak was a very important sacred site in ancient Egypt. Nearly every pharaoh built some sort of monument or temple there over a period of 2500 years, and the complex is 16 acres! Our guide, Nagwa, met us at the site and took us on a tour for about 45 minutes, and then we had another 45 minutes by ourselves to walk around. The sun was setting as we were walking around, and it was nice to be out of the day time sun. The temple is absolutely incredible, there is so much history, it seems as though all of Egypt in every era has passed through Karnak. Nagwa pointed out that three famous obelisks have been moved from Karnak Temple: one each to London, Paris, and Istanbul: check, check and check! Just need to hit up NYC and Washington, DC and I will have seen nearly all the famous obelisks moved from Egypt! Also saw Hatshepsut’s still-standing obelisk, and the only monument that she built that was not defaced by her son because it was in honour of the god Amun.
Still slightly reeling from being back in civilization after the felucca days, Kelly, Danielle, Kat, Laura, Sarah, Karen and I took a break at the Sacred Lake Café and Restaurant to buy some ridiculously expensive iced tea, ice cream and Gatorade to replenish the much needed electrolytes and combat the fact that we still hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast at 7am!! We also took a turn around this cool carved scarab beetle on a column. Apparently if you walk around three times its good luck, five times for marriage and seven times for children – needless to say I just walked around three times! After we finished looking around it was back to the horse drawn carriages and then out for my farewell dinner as I would be the first one to leave the tour the next night. We went to a restaurant that specializes in Western food – a very welcome change! We were all totally bushed and wake up call was 4:30 am so it was early to bed early to rise!
Had breakfast at the hotel on the 18th and then the group split up a bit – some headed off for hot air balloon rides but the majority of us went across the Nile to meet our donkeys for the 45 min sunrise ride to the Valley of the Kings! Let me say that donkeys, although rather cute looking, are not nearly as comfortable a ride as camels . . . Sarah very nearly had to help me off my donkey once we arrived. Nagwa and the hot air ballooners met us at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings and she gave us a tour around the outside of the tombs and told us about the tombs we were going to look at. The Valley of the Kings is somewhat anti climactic . . . is basically a big valley in the desert with a lot of holes that are the entrances to tombs.
The tombs themselves are amazing! Three tombs are included in the price of admission and we went into the tombs of Ramses I, Ramses IV and Ramses IX. Most of the tombs consist of a long corridor heading into the mountainside, some slightly and some quite steeply sloping down. It is very hot and humid inside the tombs, like the Second Pyramid at Giza. The walls and ceilings are completely covered with carvings of hieroglyphs and painted in bright colours with pictures of the gods and the afterlife. I also took the option of going into the tomb of Ramses VI, which has some of the best preserved tomb paintings in the Valley of the Kings. It also contains a massive stone sarcophagus and an even bigger granite coffin – the sarcophagus was probably 8 feet long and 3 feet wide, and the coffin probably 10 feet long and 4½ feet wide!! No wonder the grave robbers didn’t take them! Also went into King Tut’s Tomb! It is very small, one of the smallest in the Valley of the Kings, probably because he died suddenly and did not rule for very long, not giving his grave-makers a lot of time to prepare. King Tut’s mummy is the only mummy every found in the Valley of the Kings to be returned there and put on display. Unfortunately because of his famed burial goods, his mummy looks a bit worse for wear, although you would probably look pretty bad if you were 3500+ years old too!! Also unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures inside any of the tombs – the flash is bad for the paint. So alas, I don’t have any pictures from any of the tombs but it was still totally worth it!
By the time we left the Valley of the Kings it was very very hot, and about 9 am. Next stop on the itinerary was Hatshepsut’s Temple at Al-Deir el-Bahri. Hatshepsut, like any good Egyptian pharaoh built an amazing temple for herself near the Valley of the Kings. It is built into the mountainside and she constructed gardens around the temple and kept them watered with an irrigation system that brought water from the Nile (about 7kms away!) Her son, Thutmosis III, after killing her and restoring himself to power, destroyed all of her temples including Al-Deir el-Bahri, but archaeologists have been working for years to restore it. There are some faint paintings that survive, and a few statues have been restored from the thousands of pieces of rubble left at the site. Al-Deir el-Bahri was definitely a highlight for me, as Hatshepsut is one of my most favourite pharaohs. It was smoking hot at her temple: basically I felt like an egg frying in an outdoor frying pan with the sun beating down on me from above, hitting the light stone of the ground, and reflecting back up on me from below . . . probably about 37 degrees and about 10 am’ish. Took a ton of pictures and then headed off to Deir al-Madina, the village of the workers. It is located a few kilometres away from the Valley of the Kings and was constructed to house the workers who were employed in the building and decorating of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. Everyday the workers would be blindfolded and led to the tomb they were working on. Every ten days they would be moved to another tomb so that they would not be able to remember where the tombs were in case they wanted to go back later on and rob them! The coolest thing about the Deir al-Medina is that the workers were allowed to build their own small tombs and decorate them. The tombs at the workers village literally look like they were painted last week the colours are so vivid and the detail is so great. The tombs are very small but are absolutely beautiful, unfortunately, no pictures here either, but I’m sure Google has some great ones.
After the Village of the Workers we made our way to lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Nile and stopped along the way at the Colossi of Memmnon. After lunch I enjoyed my first speck of free time since the feluccas and took advantage of the rooftop pool at the hotel. Had a very relaxing afternoon of sunning, sleeping and packing for the train back to Cairo. Went to dinner at *looks embarrassed* McDonalds! It was SO good! By that time it had been about 8 weeks without truly North American food, so I savoured every bite of that delicious and oh-so-no-good-for me meal. Spent the evening relaxing with some of the ladies, and then had to say goodbye to my tour-mates: so sad! I made some pretty great friends on this trip and was very sad to have to leave them.
Hopped on the overnight train from Luxor back to Cairo at 11:15 pm and arrived in Cairo (late of course) at about 9 the next morning. Went straight to my hotel and spent pretty much the entire day writing in my journal, sleeping and eating. Travelling, though amazing, is exhausting, especially with so many early morning wake up calls . . . I needed sleep very very badly and was very very cranky. Yusef the Canadian Diplomat and I met up for dinner and a drink in the Zamalek neighbourhood (very nice and good food) and then I was off to Khan el Khalili for some last minute shopping before leaving the next morning for Athens.
Getting back to Greece was amazing!! As fantastic as Egypt was, it’s very nice to come ‘home’ to some sense of familiarity, where I can (haltingly at the best) read signs and understand what people are saying to me. After a few hours in the lovely Athens airport I took a short flight to Kefalonia and met Chris and Johnny at our dig assistant, Gioria’s, house. We had dinner, shared stories and finally hit the sack at about 2 am! The next morning we three took a cab back home to Poros and basically went straight to class – pottery washing.
An excellent vacation, never to be forgotten, never to be repeated.